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AFL First Elimination Final West Coast v Essendon, Optus Stadium.
Elliot Yeo (file photo/AFANA)

The West Coast Eagles shocked an out-of-sorts Fremantle Dockers. They defeated the match favorites by applying pressure at the ball and using direct attacks into a well-organized forward line. The Dockers appeared jaded after two games on the road where they lost narrowly to Carlton and Port Adelaide. The Eagles built on last week's comprehensive victory over the wounded Richmond Tigers to record consecutive victories for the first time since 2021. The addition of number 1 draft pick Harley Reid, combined with an injury-free and resurgent Elliot Yeo, has provided the Eagles with the midfield strength they have lacked for three years. Their clean delivery into the forward line enabled Jack Darling to feature more prominently; however, it is the re-emergence of full-forward Jake Waterman that is the big story of their forward line. The Dockers were due to have a poor game after playing intense pressure football for the first five weeks of the season. However, nobody expected such a sudden drop in form.

The Dockers started the game as they had played in recent weeks. They dominated most of the first quarter by winning clearances and making sixteen forward entries to the Eagles' seven. The Docker forward line had to be restructured when full forward Jye Amiss was concussed in the first four minutes. With the loss of Amiss the forward line lost height and structure, to the extent they could only manage three behinds (worth a point each) from their numerous attacks. The Eagles on the other hand didn't dominate the ball early, but on the rare occasions they did transition from the Dockers half, they kicked goals. Yeo goaled with a good snap after gathering a ground ball early in the quarter. Reid (a strong mark and two goals) and Waterman (one goal) after a pass from Reid, punished the Dockers towards the end of the quarter. In the midfield the Dockers dominated in the ruck with Luke Jackson and a returning Sean Darcy having the better of Bailey Williams. The Docker midfielders through Caleb Serong and Nat Fyfe won clearances but opportunities were missed in attack. The last line marking (catching) defense of Tom Barrass and Jeremy McGovern also frustrated Docker efforts to score.

Waterman Lines up
Jake Waterman (file photo/AFANA)

In the second quarter, the Eagles brought increased heat to midfield contest. The Dockers  still won in the ruck and won clearances, but the pressure on the ball carriers and the tackling applied by the Eagles disrupted the Dockers' ball movement. Serong, Hayden Young, and Andrew Brashaw collected plenty of possessions, but the chase and tackling from the Eagles' Elliot Yeo, Reuben Ginbey, and Tim Kelly was exceptional. Harley Reid gained the ball twice at center bounces for the Eagles and his dashes from the middle were the highlight of the quarter. The Eagles added three early goals via youngsters Jack Williams and Noah Long; and then Waterman booted his second after gathering a ground ball and snapping truly. It was not until the fourteen-minute mark of the quarter that Luke Jackson snapped truly did the Dockers register their first goal. Waterman answered four minutes later with a mark and his third goal. The Dockers kicked two more goals via Sam Sturt and Tom Emmett to show some life; but then Waterman received a free kick for a good tackle to boot his fourth and complete a strong quarter for West Coast.

The third quarter was where the Eagles owned the game. The Dockers' Jeremy Sharp kicked a brilliant running goal from the boundary early in the quarter, but then it was all Eagles. They won more clearances through Reid, Yeo, and Ginbey and made sixteen forward entries to the Dockers five. The Eagles won contested possessions and had the Docker defense under repeated pressure. The Eagles added five goals to put the result beyond doubt. Alex Pearce was strong in the air for Fremantle taking ten defensive marks and gaining seventeen possessions for the match. He was well supported by Jordan Clark who gave plenty of run from defense, but Luke Ryan had a bad day and was unable to compete with either Waterman or Darling who both marked strongly. The highlight for the quarter was provided again by Reid. He took a screamer (spectacular high mark) in the goal square to the delight Eagles' home crowd.

AFL Fremantle v Western Bulldogs, Round 6, 2019 Optus Stadium.
Nat Fyfe (file photo/AFANA)

The Dockers mounted a belated fightback early in the final quarter, attacking directly through the center corridor with four quick goals via Josh Treacy (two), Michael Walters, and Sam Sturt . Waterman and Darling added two more for the Eagles to snuff any hope of a Docker recovery. Fremantle continued to run and West Coast eased the pressure around the ball. Michael Johnson and Luke Jackson booted the last two goals for Fremantle. The Dockers finished the game with more hitouts, clearances, and possessions but it was the Eagles' energy and dominance in contested possessions, their contested marking, and efficiency in attack that won the game.

Next week Fremantle remain at Optus Stadium to meet the revived Western Bulldogs. The Eagles fly to the People First Stadium in Queensland to meet the Gold Coast Suns. A highlight of that match will be the clash of the young guns, Harley Reid and the Suns' Matt Rowell. Has West Coast turned the corner after several awful seasons? To be determined.

West Coast Eagles: 4.1 9.4 14.9 16.9 (105)
Fremantle Dockers: 0.3 3.3  4.5 10.8  (68)

West Coast Eagles: Yeo, Reid, Waterman, Kelly, McGovern
Fremantle Dockers: Serong, Clark, Brayshaw, Young, Fyfe

Article last changed on Saturday, April 20, 2024 - 10:05 PM EDT


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